News Column

Huffington Addresses Yale Students on State of Nation

Nov. 29, 2011

Mary E. O'Leary

Arianna Huffington told a group of Yale College Democrats Monday that the importance of the Occupy Wall Street movement is that it has changed the national conversation.

Huffington, who is the co-founder of the Huffington Post, said there has been a running dialogue through blogs and in commentaries about the shrinking middle class and the lack of mobility in America, but it had failed to capitalize on people's anger and frustration before the occupy movement came on the scene.

While the term "income inequality" was mentioned 91 times a week by the media before the Occupy movement, according to one study, it is now 500 times a week.

Many in the clearly Democratic crowd were anxious of how to balance their disappointment with President Barack Obama, at the same time they saw the need to get him re-elected.

A student asked why the right always appears to be better at framing campaign issues.

Huffington said the problem is a "kind of reluctance on the part of many Democrats to really state a clear vision for the country, a clearly progressive vision. ... It's very troubling to see that."

As she expands on in her book, Huffington said the country is on its way to a "third world America," where the middle class and democracy will fail to thrive.

Huffington, who switched from being a Republican to a Democrat after she became convinced of an activist role for the government, said the Huffington Post doesn't support one party over the other, but rather it has a "clear editorial voice" around issues of equality and opportunity.

The executive of the highly successful online publication, who made $300 million when she sold it to AOL, said the current Republican nominees act as if they are "ready to face the challenge of the 18th century. There is a real disconnect between the way they are acting and what is going on in the country," she said.

But there was also criticism of Obama, who she said should have prioritized jobs and pushed for a bigger stimulus package. What passed was too small to work with one-third of it tax cuts, a deal that only managed to give government investment a bad name.

"It was a missed opportunity," that should have introduced a "robust infrastructure" program to replace the nation's crumbling roads.

In 2012, Huffington said Obama represented "the embodiment of people's dreams," while this time the focus is on the "lesser of two evils," although she continues to support his re-election.

She was critical of the media when it presents everything as "he said, she said even when the truth is so unequivocal." Huffington said there is spinning and there is lying and the media can't bring itself to call a lie a lie, letting politicians get away with clear deceptions.

In an impromptu poll of the crowd of college students, only two raised their hands when asked if they wanted to seek public office. On the other hand, nearly all the hands shot up when they were asked if they would seriously campaign for Obama.

"A lot of sane people don't get into politics anymore. It has become such a demolition derby," she said and people have found other ways to change the world.

Given people's reduced circumstances, Huffington said many are reacting out of fear and escewing nuance for passion in their politics.

On the new media models, Huffington said the major newspapers in the country are successfully combining a newsprint and web-based hybrid.



Source: (c) 2011 the New Haven Register (New Haven, Conn.)


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